FLASHBACK: January 1968

A letter of complaint about the off-field behavior of the Kangaroos’ touring side was sent by the English Rugby League to their Australian counterparts.

The Kangaroos were well into the French leg of their tour when news of the letter broke in Australian media.

Secretary of the English League, Bill Fallowfield, said the letter had been drafted after a meeting of association members reviewed all aspects of the tour.

“The English League felt the playing of matches is not the be-all and end-all of such a tour,” Fallowfield said. “There are other aspects of great importance, such as public relations, representing one’s country and representing the game.”

The Courier-Mail’s Jack Reardon covered the English leg of the tour, before returning to Brisbane. He said the letter came as no surprise to him, on a number of fronts.

First of all, Fallowfield and team manager, Jack Drewes were always clashing. Reardon said things came to a head when Drewes refused a request from Fallowfield to allow several team members to appear on the top rating Dave Allen (television) show in London, soon after the team’s arrival in early October.

This was followed by a head-on clash between Drewes and Fallowfield over the rules of the game.

There were complaints by Fallowfield and Drewes that neither could contact the other by telephone to discuss important tour matters.

Fallowfield also claimed Drews did not answer letters or invitations.

Reardon said the Kangaroos were upset at the fact they did not have the usual batch of tickets for their English friends, ahead of the Third Test – ‘English friends!!’.

In fact some of their Australian friends, residing in Britain, only gained entry to the Test by riding in the team bus.

There were also complaints in the early part of the tour, that the Kangaroos did not attend civic receptions.

Reardon also had this to say.

“I doubt whether the English League’s letter of complaint will refer to individual behavior of Australian players off the field. There were no incidents, to my knowledge, concerning our players, to which the League, as the League, could take exception.”

Reardon said reports of damage to the team’s main north of England base at Ilkley, were exaggerated.

“Sure, there was damage done during sky larking. But it is not hard to damage a place as old and neglected as ‘The Ilkley Moor Hotel’.

“In any case, the cost of the damage caused, comes out of the players’ bonuses. The players had plenty of complaints about their hotels, such as the absence of hot water for baths after training. When the team arrived at the Ilkley Moor Hotel, one toilet was out of order. It was still out of order at the end of their stay.

“The only occupants of the hotel were the Kangaroos and staff, so there was no reason why they should wear their official uniform or blazer and slacks to the dining table.

“On one occasion, imported Australian t-bone steaks were specially ordered for the team, ahead of a match. The players could not eat these steaks. It appeared the chef put the steaks into boiling water to thaw them out before grilling. Players said they tasted like sawdust.”

It appears there was some substance to reports the Australians were failures in the public relations department, given a report from the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’s, Peter Muszkat, who, unlike Reardon, continued with the Kangaroos to France.

Muszkat reported from Marseilles that the Kangaroos were given a tongue lashing by a high ranking French official in relation to their lack of diplomacy.

The Australians were sternly rebuked by their French liaison officer, Raymond Forges, for belittling the importance of a mayoral reception in Marseilles, with only nine of the squad bothering to turn up.

And of course, in later years it was revealed that one of the Australian players had walked the streets of Ilkley, wearing just a bowler hat.

Johnny Raper fed off the notoriety for a time, even posing naked for Cleo magazine, which a bowler hat covering his manhood.

Later prop forward, Dennis Manteit owned up as the Ilkley ‘streaker’.

the ARL launched an exhaustive enquiry into the dramas of the tour, with Graeme Langlands and Billy Smith fined $250 each as two of the chief culprits.

On the field, the Australians’ French tour proved equally disastrous. The First Test – in Marseilles – was 7-7 draw, but France won the return clash 10-3 in Carcassonne and then the Third Test 16-13 in Toulouse.

In Carcassonne, on New Year’s Day, the home fans were outraged when veteran fullback, Pierre Lacaze was stiff armed by an Australian and had to be carried from the field.

the Sydney Daily Telegraph’s Mike Gibson wrote that the Kangaroos had handed the series to the French on a platter.

“They treated the French team as a bit of a joke and the French section of the tour as a bit of a lark,” Gibson wrote.

The buck stops with the team management, and in my experience, there have been many weak team managers, who have got the job for services rendered, not because they were the best equipped for the role.

WhatsApp Raymond Forges 2018-04-30 at 11.59.05 AM

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